Well my back actually functions now–for the most part–so it’s back to work for me. While it was all screwed up, I had trouble even holding up a book. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s true; I carry all my tension in my shoulder blades, and I always forget just how much I use those fuckers for everything until they tense up completely. As a result, I spent a great deal of time on the couch with an ice pack watching TV.
It’s amazing what I can learn from watching TV, in terms of writing, but mostly I was too annoyed to be academic about it. So I sat there and mainlined Merlin and Teen Wolf. Here’s the lowdown on the first one:
My parents have been telling me for years to watch this. I don’t know why I haven’t except that I don’t really watch much TV . Generally that’s time I’d rather be using to write, which is my brain’s own way of entertaining itself. (Until it’s time to edit, at which point it’s my brain’s own way of trying to fuck with me.) But as was inevitable–because King Arthur–I caved when the back started to get a bit wonky, and it pretty much saved me there in the end.
- Casting. Pretty much everyone is totally perfect. In particular Arthur (Bradley James) and Merlin (Colin Morgan) have great comedic timing both together and apart, and Morgana (Katie McGrath) owns every scene she’s in. Also, Gwen (Angel Coulby) is fucking gorgeous and I want to eat her up. Anthony Head as Uther? He’ll always be Sir Walter Elliot to me, so yeah. Totally perfect. And awful.
- Adorability. Pretty much everyone is totally adorable–but in weird and interesting ways rather than being super-perfect. It’s also one of the few shows where I’ve watched gag reels and random interviews because they’re genuinely cute. (Arthurian road trip through Wales with the guys who play Merlin and Arthur–hilariously useless, these two.)
- Re-imagining. I love what they did with pretty much all of the Arthurian myths they’ve used so far. The dragon under the castle (yes, singular), Excalibur, Mordred, the Round Table, and god, oh my god, the Sword in the Stone–I might have gotten a little choked up over that one. I actually liked most of it better than what the darker, grittier, and clearly more expensive Camelot series on Starz did. Those little moments of I know what that is! fannish glee are wonderful.
- Characters. They went some weird ass places with the characters, and it’s cool. I never thought I’d see the day where I prefer Lancelot to Arthur–I’m not a paladin kinda girl. Merlin is extremely awkward and cute, and Gwen is adorable–even if she does need some better stuff to do, because she’s kinda wasted so far. The knights are really fun, in particular Gwaine, who retains a von Eschenbach-ish devil-may-care-can’t-shut-up-ness. And Morgana… she’s the best, and has had the most interesting and believable arc so far.
- General feeling. It’s a light-hearted, family-friendly show on the surface, but it manages to give you all the feels at the same time. Gotta love that.
Pretty much the one big one: it’s a monarchist fable in which the monarchy is shit. The ruling family, the Pendragons, are genocidal bastards who hate magic and have literally killed anyone caught practicing it for decades. (There is a reason given, but it’s a bit thin.) Arthur was raised in this tradition–a cool change: he actually grew up in Camelot with King Uther–hence most of his jock-headed douchery.
But Merlin has to betray his own and keep saving Arthur’s dumb ass to make sure he gets to the throne (while people keep dying in the meantime) because destiny. No, really, that’s the whole reason. Arthur, in the meantime, has no idea Merlin is magic, regularly throws shit at him, and is in general a complete dick–not because he doesn’t love Merlin, because he proves often enough that he does, but he’s not awesome at showing it. He takes every opportunity to be a horrible friend, too. Again, we understand why, but yeah. Dick.
But destiny, so whatever. Merlin is Emrys! (Love that they included that, btw, although they’ve yet to explain it in the show.) He is the magical messiah! He’ll save them…
Eventually. So long as it involves not upsetting the current power structure. Kinda like, you know, endorsing a system of government that chooses its supreme leader by the “strange women lying in ponds distributing swords” method.
… okay, so it’s appropriate. But aggravating as fuck, as people are dying in every episode.
Why doesn’t Merlin just say fuck this and give control over to the magical types–his people, many of whom are still extremely level-headed and peaceful in the face of this disaster? Why, once he finds out Morgana–the king’s ward (and more, as it turns out, but shhh)–is magic, doesn’t he bring her into the loop and ask for her help and support? Um, because it’s way more fun to let her go insane and turn hateful, I guess?
Nah, says Merlin, I’m just going to keep screwing over magical people and letting them die left and right because a dragon and a doddering old dude (who is awesome, to be fair) told me I have to protect Arthur. And then I’ll hope he’s not a dick anymore by the time he’s king.
Spoiler: by the time he’s king, he’s still a dick.
And then there was the episode where Sir Elyan was possessed by the spirit of a druid boy whose whole village was murdered mercilessly by one of Arthur’s patrols some years back. Arthur ends up begging forgiveness and swearing it’ll never happen again. And druid-possessed guy is like, “I forgive you for everything.”
Did I mention Sir Elyan the Possessed is the only black guy in the knights of Camelot? Yeah. How did they film that white boy fantasy and not a single person on set stop and think, “Wait. That’s fucked up!”
But to be fair, Merlin does deserve props for including PoC in a relatively prominent way, especially for the genre. And in spite of the issues, I’m itching for S5, so it must be pretty good anyhow. I have to admit that the character growth is pretty awesome in most cases, so I’m kinda hoping they’ll fix Arthur.
But I still say I need a “Morgana was Right” shirt. But part of the whole monarchist fable thing is that all women in this show who do not actively support the current (shit) patriarchy must be evil, so I’m outta luck.
Bonus material — fandom:
There is of course a large and active fandom surrounding Merlin, of which I have only scraped the surface. There seems to be a good deal Arthur/Merlin shipping, which makes no sense to me, but to each their own. (Have I mentioned what a dick Arthur is? He’s a dick. And Merlin is super adorbs.) Then again, I feel similarly about Arthur/Gwen. You know that one really nice friend you have who’s dating that guy you don’t really like? And she makes him a better man, and you know she loves him all right, but you also know she’d get so much more out of the partnership if it was with someone else? Yeah, they’re that couple. But I guess considering the current Lancelot situation, she’s bound to agree to take one for Camelot.
The most sexual tension in the show so far has been between Morgana and Morgause, which is super fucked up no matter how you look at it. But a fact.
NOTE: I am not a huge shipper, if you can believe it. Like even in the one fandom where I’m vaguely active (Marvel), I don’t give a shit. But fandom is half the fun (when it’s not being absurd).